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What Is the Difference Between Costume & Fine Jewelry?

by Pamela Simmons, studioD

Jewelry comes in two types: cosmetic and fine. Both types of jewelry can be incredibly fashionable, however, each type is different. In order for a piece to be labeled fine, it has to be made with certain materials. All other jewelry is known as cosmetic -- or fashion -- jewelry. While both are coveted by jewelry collectors and fashionistas alike, it's good to know the difference before you buy.

The Difference

Fine jewelry includes anything that’s made with gold, platinum and gemstones. Gold has to have at least 10 karats to be considered fine jewelry. Gemstones must be naturally made. Fine jewelry typically has a longer life span than costume jewelry and is often passed from generation to generation and is considered more of an investment than costume jewelry. Because fine jewelry is made of coveted metals and gemstones, it's generally more expensive than costume pieces.


Costume jewelry first became available in the 1930s however it didn’t become thought of as fashionable until the mid-1980s. Costume jewelry is any jewelry that is not made of fine materials. Fine jewelry must be made of gold, platinum and/or gemstones to be considered such. If jewelry has real gold or platinum but contains manufactured gemstones, it’s still considered costume.


Due to modern techniques, some costume jewelry pieces look surprisingly real and oftentimes, costume jewelers will copy designs of fine jewelry. Costume jewelry sometimes will use plating, filling, dipping or rolling to create a more precious look, generally using brass as a base before coating with gold or platinum.

Statement Jewelry

Modern costume jewelry is often very trendy – think statement necklaces. These necklaces are so big and over-the-top, buying ones that contain all fine materials would cost extraordinary amounts of money. Because technology has advanced, necklaces made of costume jewelry can look truly authentic. There are several designer labels that sell costume jewelry. Depending on the popularity of the label, prices can go up. Many well-known designer labels produce highly sought after costume jewelry, including Chanel, Alexis Bittar, and Lulu Frost. Statement jewelry pieces have been made with fine materials as well, however, because they're made of fine metals and gems, these pieces come with a high price tag that very few are able to afford.

Lab-Produced Gems

Some stones are manufactured. These stones include glass moissanite, plastic, briolite, cubic zirconium, rhinestone, quartz, diamonique and strontium titanate. Some diamonds are manufactured in labs. These stones are not considered to be fine jewels, though they can look very similar to their naturally produced counterparts. Lab-produced diamonds, for instance, have the same chemical makeup as real diamonds and can be hard to differentiate. However, lab-produced diamonds must be labeled so when they’re sold the buyer knows the difference.

About the Author

Pamela Simmons has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles on fashion, beauty and other topics have appeared on Denim Therapy and other websites. Simmons serves as an editor and public relations manager for CHIC.TV. She holds a Bachelor of Science in international affairs from Georgia Tech and a Master of Business Administration from Mercer University.

Photo Credits

  • Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images